Moses Malone has started the new year right, and not coincidentally, so have the Philadelphia 76ers.
Malone scored 26 points and had 17 rebounds Friday night at Philadelphia to lead the surging 76ers to a 113-102 victory over Sacramento, ending the Kings' four-game winning streak.
It was the 11th win in the last 12 games, a spurt that began the game after Julius Erving moved from small forward to big guard. But recently, Malone has been the key to the 76ers' success.
The 76ers have won four of their last five games, and Malone has been a dominant force in all of them. The perennial NBA rebound king averaged 13.6 rebounds and 25.8 points in the five-game stretch. This is more like the Malone of old.
In 1983, when Malone led the 76ers to a four-game sweep of the Lakers in the championship round of the playoffs, it appeared there would be no stopping Malone or the 76ers.
The powerful 6-10 center was only 28. He was easily the dominant force in the sport.
But there was no dynasty for the 76ers, and Malone, apparently nagged by injuries, was no longer the man in charge. In fact, early this season, it seemed that at 30 he was an old man. He, more than any other 76er, seemed to have trouble playing games on consecutive nights. It was pointed out that Malone went from high school to the pros and has been playing upwards of 80 games for a dozen seasons.
The Malone of the last few games has been anything but an old man.
"When he decides to take charge," teammate Charles Barkley said, "it's his game. Nobody can stop him."
Malone is only fourth in the NBA in rebounding, but that could change. Soon, he figures to take control and go after his sixth consecutive rebounding title.
The Kings, playing well lately, led, 77-75, with 2:16 left in the third quarter, but Malone took over, and five minutes later the 76ers led, 91-79.
Boston 115, Atlanta 108--Dennis Johnson scored 13 of his 24 points in the third quarter at Boston to help the Celtics break open a close game.
In improving their home record to 16-1, the Celtics had to overcome another outstanding performance by Dominique Wilkins. Wilkins had 34 points and 9 rebounds, but he didn't get much help, and the Hawks' five-game winning streak was ended.
The Celtics led, 62-56, at halftime, then made 14 of 18 field goal attempts in the third period to stretch the margin to 95-76.
Larry Bird had 29 points and 7 assists for the Celtics.
Milwaukee 95, Portland 89--Ricky Pierce scored 9 of his 21 points in the fourth quarter at Milwaukee as the Bucks scored a hard-fought victory.
The Trail Blazers rallied to take an 88-87 lead late in the third quarter, only to lose center Sam Bowie when he broke the tibia in his left leg. He'll be examined today to determine the full extent of the injury.
Pierce put the Bucks in front, and Mike Glenn kept them there, coming off the bench to score six points in the last four minutes.
Both teams shot poorly. The Blazers were 34-81 for 42.0% and the Bucks 36-84 for 42.9%.
Dallas 117, Phoenix 104--Rolando Blackman scored 9 of his 25 points in a fourth-quarter flurry at Dallas that cut short the Suns' late rally.
The Suns scored 10 points in a row to cut the lead to 99-92. Blackman made 9 of the next 13 Maverick points, and the lead soared to 112-98.
San Antonio 124, Golden State 97--Steve Johnson scored 21 points, and Alvin Robertson had 14 points and 14 assists to lead the Spurs to an easy win at San Antonio.
The Warriors' Chris Mullin, who missed only 4 of his first 104 free throw attempts and was leading the league with 110-for-116, missed 5 of 10 attempts in this game.